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29/07/2011 | Censorship in Ecuador: Lèse-presidente. Rafael Correa seeks to bankrupt his media foes

The Economist Staff

FOR a man who calls his country’s legal system dysfunctional and corrupt, Rafael Correa, Ecuador’s president, has fared remarkably well in the courts. In 2008 he won $600,000 when he sued Banco Pichincha, Ecuador’s biggest bank, because it had mistakenly included him in a list of delinquent credit-card holders. On July 20th a judge ordered Emilio Palacio, a former columnist for El Universo, one of Ecuador’s main newspapers, and three of the paper’s directors, to pay Mr Correa the colossal total of $40m in damages, and sentenced all of the four men to three years in jail.

 

Mr Correa sued over a column, published in February, referring to a controversial incident last year in which, amid a gun battle, troops whisked him out of a hospital where he had sought refuge during a mutiny by police. The president himself claimed he was the victim of an attempted coup. Mr Palacio wrote that Mr Correa, whom he called a “dictator”, might some day face criminal prosecution for putting his own safety above anyone else’s when he told soldiers they could fire at the mutineers outside a hospital full of people. Mr Palacio implied that this was a war crime, but provided no evidence for his claim.

Mr Correa had reason to feel aggrieved at this slur. But he rejected an offer by El Universo to publish a rebuttal. His choice of remedy has cast a chill over Ecuador’s independent media. The president attended the court in person. A small crowd of his supporters pelted the defendants and their lawyers with eggs and bottles outside the courthouse. The media were barred from the hearing.

The defendants have appealed, and are seeking to have the case annulled on procedural grounds. (The sentences will not be implemented until after the appeal.) They say the damages would almost bankrupt El Universo.

Mr Correa hailed the verdict as ending a “reign of terror” by the media, though he also said he would appeal, seeking the full $80m in damages he originally claimed. He insists he wants justice, not money, and will donate the damages to an environmental scheme. (He spent half the $600,000 from Banco Pichincha—on which the tax office did not ask him to pay income tax—on a flat in Belgium.)

Ecuador’s independent media has fallen into the trap of acting as a political opposition to Mr Correa, a popular and powerful president. But Mr Correa has shown a disturbing intolerance of criticism. He is also suing the authors of a book about his elder brother’s business dealings with the government. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights said the ruling against El Universo was “contrary to regional freedom-of-expression standards” and would result in self-censorship. The president may be elected, but he is doing his best to live up to Mr Palacio’s gibe that he is a dictator.

The Economist (Reino Unido)

 


Otras Notas Relacionadas... ( Records 1 to 10 of 523 )
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27/01/2009|
17/01/2009|
17/01/2009|
17/01/2009|
17/01/2009|
17/01/2009|
17/01/2009|
11/01/2009|
06/12/2008|
06/12/2008|
06/12/2008|
06/12/2008|
23/11/2008|
23/11/2008|
16/11/2008|
16/11/2008|
04/11/2008|
04/11/2008|
03/11/2008|
03/11/2008|
24/10/2008|
24/10/2008|
24/10/2008|
24/10/2008|
15/09/2008|
15/09/2008|
15/09/2008|
15/09/2008|
15/09/2008|
15/09/2008|
06/09/2008|
06/09/2008|
05/09/2008|
05/09/2008|
05/09/2008|
05/09/2008|
01/09/2008|
01/09/2008|
01/09/2008|
01/09/2008|
22/08/2008|
22/08/2008|
17/08/2008|
17/08/2008|
16/08/2008|
16/08/2008|
28/07/2008|
28/07/2008|
28/07/2008|
28/07/2008|
28/07/2008|
28/07/2008|
19/07/2008|
19/07/2008|
24/05/2008|
24/05/2008|
03/05/2008|
03/05/2008|
29/04/2008|
11/02/2008|
05/01/2008|
09/12/2007|
18/11/2007|
10/11/2007|
10/11/2007|
06/11/2007|
06/11/2007|
06/09/2007|
26/08/2007|
25/08/2007|
11/07/2007|
16/06/2007|
16/06/2007|
10/06/2007|
10/06/2007|
19/05/2007|
19/05/2007|
19/05/2007|
19/05/2007|
24/04/2007|
24/04/2007|
14/04/2007|
14/04/2007|
05/04/2007|
05/04/2007|
05/04/2007|
28/02/2007|
28/02/2007|
05/02/2007|
05/02/2007|
04/02/2007|
04/02/2007|
04/02/2007|
04/02/2007|
04/02/2007|
04/02/2007|
29/01/2007|
29/01/2007|
29/01/2007|
29/01/2007|
11/01/2007|
11/01/2007|
11/01/2007|
11/01/2007|
27/12/2006|
27/12/2006|
27/12/2006|
27/12/2006|
27/12/2006|
27/12/2006|
20/12/2006|
20/12/2006|
17/11/2006|
30/09/2006|
28/07/2006|
12/04/2006|
12/04/2006|
12/04/2006|
06/03/2006|
21/02/2006|
17/02/2006|
31/01/2006|
10/01/2006|
28/12/2005|
31/10/2005|
26/09/2005|
29/08/2005|
11/08/2005|
08/08/2005|
24/06/2005|
24/06/2005|
24/06/2005|
03/04/2005|
03/04/2005|
03/04/2005|
03/04/2005|

ver + notas
 
Center for the Study of the Presidency
Freedom House